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Comm Studies Faculty Teach Empowerment to Young Women in Bahrain

two women and two men stand in conference room
From left, senior affiliated faculty Israela Brill-Cass; senior lecturer Keri Thompson; Steven Bondy, U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain; and Communication Studies Chair Greg Payne. Courtesy photo

This spring, Communications Studies senior affiliated faculty member Israela Brill-Cass and senior lecturer Keri Thompson, along with department chair Dr. Gregory Payne, traveled to for the annual Bahrain Women’s Leadership Program.

Facilitated through a partnership with Empower Peace, Communication Studies faculty have participated in the conference for the past two years, though due to the pandemic, it was virtual. This was the first time they were able to attend the event in-person.

Thompson saw this as a great chance to connect with and meet the program participants in person. “As much as we do in person, it doesn’t equal the joy of an in-person experience,” she says.

The conference, held this year from March 27 to April 1, provides young women, ages 15-18, with the opportunity to learn more about leadership and communication skills through a variety of workshops, panels, and discussions facilitated by faculty around the globe.

Thompson gave a presentation titled “Battling the Imposter Syndrome,” where she discussed the importance of empowering the next generation of young women leaders to speak their minds and feel confident doing so. She also moderated two panels: “Building Your Dream: The Life of an Entrepreneur,” which involved hearing from Bahraini women entrepreneurs and how they started their businesses; and “Women and Government,” which explored the critical role of women in shaping government and policies.

“It’s amazing to be able to empower young women all across the world. I love doing it with Emerson students but especially with young students with other backgrounds and of other cultures it’s really fulfilling, and I hope we can do it more in the future,” Thompson said.

Payne led “Establishing Your Personal Brand and Network Using Social Media,” a session exploring how to present yourself on social media and, more broadly, how to use the internet as a tool to build personal brands and connections. Brill-Cass led “The Art of Difficult Discussion,” guiding young women through different strategies to engage in negotiations with people who hold a different opinion. Earlier in the week, she also presented “The Art of Negotiation,” teaching both how to become a better negotiator, and how to use those skills in a leadership position.

The faculty members had the opportunity to learn the history of the pearl trading industry in Bahrain, specifically looking at how women impacted and influenced this growing field. They met a pearl diver and women scientists in the industry, which they saw as a great way to appreciate Bahrain through the lens of the conference.

Reflecting on the trip, Thompson appreciated the opportunity to not only start conversations about ways to empower the next generation of women leaders, but also give participants insight into Emerson and the programs offered.

“I’m hoping this will help us recruit more students from the Middle East, because these young women are brilliant and amazing,” she says. “It was a really good trip for Emerson to get our name and brand out, although that wasn’t our first priority.”

Similarly, Payne saw the trip as a great place to connect with Emerson alum abroad.

“We have a very large, positive Emerson mafia globally that would love to connect to those in the states,” he says.

Above all, Payne said he sees this trip as an opportunity to continue the College’s longstanding tradition of public diplomacy, connecting people across different backgrounds and geographic locations.

“Public diplomacy furthers understanding through communication,” he said.

This summer, Payne is taking 215 Emerson students to Mexico to participate in the Rediscover Rosarito Global Pathways program, a public diplomacy project which seeks to address and redefine Mexico’s image after President Calderon’s war on drugs.

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